Friday, 23 November 2018

Books that make my worldview: Intro to an occasional series

I liked the idea of writing about a series of posts about some of the books that have shaped the way I understand the world, with a short explanation of how and why. Originally I was going to just do one post but I soon realized that it would be extremely long.

It's worth noting at this point that astute readers will notice a distinct lack of books on economics. This is because, by nature, I am most keenly interested in social-cultural-religious questions, rather than political-economic ones, albeit the line between the two categories is not always clear.

Also, to be brutally honest, I don’t find economics especially interesting and don’t have a clear understanding of the subject. This is probably a fault or intellectual weakness of mine, but in my defence I do consciously avoid taking strong stances on economic matters. I have some fairly vague general (and qualified) commitments to open markets, competition, efficient taxes and so on, as I think they provide the best route to growth. In economic terms, I think I’m closest to “neoliberalism”, as described by Sam Bowman here, although I disagree with Sam on plenty of issues, especially non-economic ones. Fundamentally I’m an economic pragmatist; what counts is what works in producing growth, jobs, a decent liveable environment and an affordable cost of living (including affordable housing). Those aren't the only important things, of course. I also think that economic policy should, where possible, aim for goods such as community cohesion and stability and the creation of high-quality stable employment. But policy is trade-offs, and the latter goods can sometimes only be achieved by severely undermining the former. The single most important truth in conservative politics is that there is no single most important truth. Circumstances matter. Individualism must be balanced by order; equality restrained by liberty; justice tempered by mercy, innovation matched by continuity.

My attachment to liberalish economics is balanced by my belief in certain positive rights, or entitlements, as well as the negative rights traditionally cherished by conservatives; it is in my view meaningful to talk of people's right to housing, food, water, etc., even if it is not always clear how a government might most effectively secure these rights. The strength of the neoliberal approach is that it focuses on how these things might be achieved most effectively, rather than the endless theoretical wrangling that often seems to mark libertarian political theology.

Anyway, enough throat-clearing. Entry number one is here.

1 comment:

  1. I'm very much looking forward to this series of posts.